Historic University of Barcelona Building | Barcelona Bus Turístic

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Historic University of Barcelona Building

The university that returned after more than a century to inaugurate the Eixample district

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In addition to being a fine example of neo-Gothic architecture, the University of Barcelona building represents a symbol of the return of higher education to the city after a century of absence. At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, Philip V converted the old university into a barracks. More than a hundred years later, university studies returned to Barcelona in a building designed by Elies Rogent i Amat.

Why visit the University?

The studium generale, the University of Barcelona’s predecessor, had been created in the 13th century following the educational tradition that existed in the Crown of Aragon. In 1536 the construction of the new school was started on a plot at the start of La Rambla, which is why the top part of the street is still known as La Rambla dels Estudis. Shortly after the 1701-1714 War of the Spanish Succession, King Philip V, as a retaliatory measure, moved the university to Cervera and converted the building into a military barracks. It was not until 1842 that Barcelona recovered its university.

The new building was designed by Elies Rogent, a friend of Ildefons Cerdà, who had just submitted his plan for the city’s new expansion, the Eixample. It was the first monumental structure of the new part of the city, and Rogent designed it in accordance with the neo-Gothic style of the time with neo-Arabic and Byzantine decoration.

The building is organised into two lateral structures: the one on the right for scientific studies and the one of the left for humanities. It also has a central structure which is home to its assembly hall and staircase of honour. The cloisters consist of two covered floors and a third uncovered floor. The capitals of the medieval-style columns are all different.

The assembly hall occupies the centre of the architectural composition and is its most important space because it is where solemn ceremonies take place, such as the awarding of honorary degrees and the inauguration of the academic year. In contrast to the rest of the building, its decoration is profuse, combining neo-Mudejar and plateresque elements. The gallery of the assembly hall exhibits the shield of King Charles I, who chaired the old studium generale on La Rambla, which was destroyed in 1843. Only this emblem was saved.

Now the University of Barcelona has multiple centres in the city, but this historic building is still home to the faculties of Philology and Mathematics.

 

How do you get to the University?

If you get off at the Plaça de Catalunya stop on the Blue Route of the Barcelona Bus Turístic, you can get to the University of Barcelona by following carrer de Pelai as far as plaça de la Universitat.

 

For the most curious of you

  • Did you know? There are small coloured shields on the capitals in the vestibule. They are the shields of the various provinces of the Kingdom of Spain, as the building was inaugurated by King Alfonso XII in 1874.
  • Local’s tip: The gardens of the University of Barcelona are one of the city’s most singular locations. They are a green space with an exceptional botanical wealth, with almost 250 species distributed over a space of just over 10,000 m².
  • A must: To take refuge from the noise of the city centre, enjoy the gardens and stroll through the cloisters.